About the Station House
At the end of Oliver Street stands the oldest public building still in use within the city, and possibly the most historic: the BC Rail Station. There are only two remaining first generation Pacific Great Eastern Railway stations (PGE) – one in Quesnel and the older station in Williams Lake.
The Station, as well as stockyards and a four-stall locomotive house, were built in the winter of 1919. It was located at the primary intersection of town, on Railway Avenue (now Mackenzie Avenue) at the foot of Oliver Street. As the centre of activity, the town would gather to watch the train. The depot was constantly busy. The school board held meetings in the waiting room up until 1930, and children would play in the train yard and underneath the platforms. Regulars would visit and enjoy a warm cup of coffee that always seemed to be on.
The Station remained virtually unchanged for the first 30 years. An addition was eventually built for baggage and express purposes.
In 1981, art groups in the community who were in need of additional space and held a desire to preserve the historic BCR Station House, formed a non-profit organization called the Station House Studio and Gallery Society. They took over and began renovations. Restoring the building took a great deal of work. Windows were blocked off and the plaster was falling down. The lower level was cleared of dividing walls to allow for more gallery space. After all the hard work was done, the main floor gallery and gift shop was opened in 1982. The upstairs gallery and workshops were developed and opened in 1983.
When you step inside the Station House today you can still see remnants of the original depot. The hardwood floor remains the same, the basement still houses the master furnace, and the exterior has had only a colour change.
Turning the depot into a gallery and one of the main tourist attractions in the city ensures people are given the chance to experience a true piece of history.
the Gallery still sees a fantastic volume of tourists and local craftspeople who come through the doors to visit, as well as to exhibit. Each month the Gallery exhibits a variety of contemporary works in many mediums by local, regional, and touring artists. The Society also operates a gift shop that features the work of local artists and crafts people. Upstairs, there is room for small workshops such as children’s art classes offered each summer. Guided educational tours are also offered to local school children and groups.
The Gallery’s success and growth over the years has allowed for a full time Executive Director, who also has the role of exhibition coordinator, a casual Education Coordinator, a part-time administration assistant and part-time shop assistants. Volunteers, however, are still essential to all aspects of the organization.
The Gallery is funded through revenue generated by the gift shop, memberships, corporate sponsorship, donations, fundraising projects, the City of Williams Lake and Cariboo Regional District Fee for Service via the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society as well as the Province of BC through gaming grant monies and the Government of Canada Summer Student Grant program.